Changes to legislation giving greater prominence to psychosocial risk factors at work have changed the role of government occupational health and safety (OHS) inspectors in many countries. There has been little investigation of how inspectorates have responded to these challenges. Between 2003 and 2007 an Australian Research Council funded project was undertaken that entailed extended interviews with 170 managers and inspectors, collection of information when researchers accompanied inspectors on ‘typical’ workplace visits, and detailed documentary and statistical analysis. Drawing on this evidence, the paper found that the general duty provisions in OHS legislation clearly incorporate psychosocial hazards at work and inspectorates have introduced guidance material and campaigns, and increased interventions in this area. At the same time, much of the activity has focused on bullying, harassment and workplace stress. In practice inspectors often found bullying type claims were resource intensive, complex and difficult to resolve in comparison to other issues (such as hazardous plant, chemicals or manual handling). There were some concerns about the advisory nature of standards and the remedies available in this area. The need to identify the complainant was also seen to place these workers at risk. Overall, findings highlight the role of training, mentoring, resourcing, legislative provisions and the industrial relations context in terms of inspectors effectively addressing psychosocial risk factors.
Johnstone, Richard, 2008, WP 60 - OHS Inspectors and psychosocial risk factors: Evidence from Australia, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, Canberra